The Best Places to Go With Kids in Los Angeles

Taking the family to L.A., where sunshine is almost guaranteed, is a surefire hit. The light of the SoCal sun makes colors more vivid, and the Pacific air makes everything taste better, too. We’ve gathered our favorite kid-tested activities, museums, food, sweets, and hotels for your family’s best vacation ever.

5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036, USA
Encyclopedic is one way to describe L.A.’s oldest art institution. Sprawling is another. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art opened in its current Miracle Mile location in 1965 and has not stopped growing, becoming the largest museum in the western United States. Its 135,000-piece collection spans 6,000 years of art. It also includes some of the museum world’s most photographed outdoor sculptures, such as Michael Heizer’s mind-boggling Levitated Mass and Chris Burden’s Urban Light. The museum hosts some 40 exhibits per year, plus a dynamic schedule of events, such as Tuesday film matinees and picnic-friendly Jazz at LACMA (held weekly on “summer” weekend nights—which in L.A. means April to November). While anyone can join free tours throughout the day, docents also lead customized experiences for a fee, which will take you through the galleries before or after hours to marvel at artists as wide-ranging as Henri Matisse, Ai Weiwei, Diego Rivera, and Catherine Opie. Kids are also catered to with a special gallery, Sunday activities, and a free membership, which includes entry for them plus an adult guest any day of the year. Pro tips: Plan to spend several hours at the museum, fueling up on wood-fired pizza midway through the day at Ray’s & Stark Bar. And if you’d like to experience the outdoor sculptures without the crowds, go early in the morning or on Wednesdays, when the museum is closed and gloriously quiet.
Terranea Way, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275, USA
On arrival at Terranea, it’s natural to release a big, tension-melting sigh. The luxury resort occupies 100-plus acres along the bluffs of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, providing expansive views of the Pacific and a sense of spaciousness that’s rare in the city. The Mediterranean-style resort hotel spent $40 million in 2017 to upgrade the property, which includes 582 guest rooms and suites, eight bungalows, four swimming pools (take the kids to the 140-foot waterslide at the Resort Pool), and one acclaimed golf course. At its upscale wellness-minded spa, ingredients grown on the grounds go into the treatments, which are designed and timed to improve the body’s circadian rhythm. Pure pampering aside, regulars return in part for the unparalleled access to dozens of postcard-pretty hiking trails, including a naturalist-led walk (there’s also a falconry program). One of the resort’s five eateries can meet virtually any craving that hits, but the diver scallops with black truffle polenta should be non-negotiable. Pro tip: Book a visit in December or January to watch the sun rise and set from the same vantage point—and maybe even spot some humpback whales.
8850 Washington Boulevard
A sense of discovery pervades at this innovative, open-air retail development in Culver City, which opened in 2016. Six buildings house first-to-market concept shops, pop-ups, and creative company headquarters. The place is constantly evolving, with a stylish lineup of businesses stepping in temporarily (St. Frank housewares, Charlotte Stone shoes) or permanently (Bird Brooklyn’s first West Coast outpost, Magasin men’s boutique, design shop Poketo). Be sure to hit some Southern California favorites, including The Edit by Freda Salvador and Janessa Leone, for shoes and hats, and Reservoir L.A. for an impeccable edit of local fashion brands. You’ll also find great iced coffee at Blue Bottle, acai bowls at São Acai, and tacos at the unmissable Loqui. Studded with cacti and succulents, as well as hanging chairs, the outdoor areas encourage leisurely shopping breaks. Keep an eye on the Platform’s schedule of events for outdoor concerts, film screenings, and food festivals. Pro tip: Put aside 35 minutes for an Aesop Express Facial at the cult Aussie beauty shop—it’s one of only four of the brand’s shops worldwide that offers them.
225 N Canon Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, USA
Modern yet classic, upscale yet relaxed, the Montage Beverly Hills channels the best of modern and classic California. Take Georgie Restaurant, where chef Geoffrey Zakarian made his Los Angeles debut: at breakfast, guests can enjoy avocado toast and detox juices; at night, diners enjoy libations served in Prohibition-era glasses from the tableside martini cart. Housed in a Spanish revival–style building in the heart of Beverly Hills, the 201 guest rooms and 55 suites are decorated in 1920s- and 1930s-inspired furnishings for a breezily sophisticated, vintage Hollywood vibe (the Montage Suite even has its own baby grand piano). Spend the day by the roof’s saline swimming pool, where private cabanas are available, or sip champagne by the mineral wellness pool of the Spa Montage. The Moroccan-inspired two-level spa offers a comprehensive range of treatments, including Beverly Hills’ most expensive facial, the $1,400 Royal C, using an infusion of L.RAPHAEL vitamin C. Pro tip: Ask Cash Black, head barman of the jewel-box bar £10—accessible through a back-entrance staircase—for a taste of “elegance,” and he’ll pour the 25-year-old Sherry Oak Macallan.
221 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA
When it opened in 2015, this museum drew headlines for its extensive contemporary art collection and Diller Scofidio + Renfro–designed building, which resembles a futuristic honeycomb. Then a single exhibition catapulted it into fame: artist Yayoi Kusama’s installation of thousands of twinkling LED lights called Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away. (The artist’s follow-up, Longing for Eternity, opened in 2017.) There’s plenty to be dazzled by in this museum founded by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad. Hundreds of skylights illuminate the column-free third floor’s permanent galleries—featuring the Broads’ considerable collection of pieces by Kara Walker, Barbara Kruger, Jasper Johns, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Insiders know to visit on weekdays for the most relaxed experience or around major holidays and occasions such as Halloween and International Women’s Day for engaging and sometimes provocative tours. Pro tip: Though general admission tickets are free, it’s wise to book tickets online ahead when they’re released on the first of each month for the following month, especially if you’re taking a date or going with a group (the same goes for Kusama’s rooms). At least two weeks out, request a before- or after-hours guided group tour of one hour, not including the Infinity Mirrored Room. And make sure to also book reservations at Otium, the trendsetting restaurant by Chef Timothy Hollingsworth located next to the Broad.
900 Wilshire Blvd #8023, Los Angeles, CA 90017, USA
Superlatives abound at the InterContinental in downtown L.A. The 73-story structure is the tallest building west of Chicago and, at 889 rooms, the largest InterContinental in the Americas. (It set a Guinness World Record for the longest continuous concrete pour during its foundation construction.) Opened in 2017, the hotel was also downtown’s first LEED Gold Certified building for Building Design and Construction. All that record setting is matched by a big personality and plenty of luxury, too. Inspired by architectural historian Reyner Banham’s book Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies, the hotel features light fixtures based on schematic maps of L.A.’s freeways, hand-painted murals, and billboard-style headboards with city scenes. Club Level suites are stocked with Le Labo Santal 33 amenities, customized with guests’ names. And on the 71st floor, bathrooms are cheekily decorated in Marie Antoinette and cowboy themes. The Versailles-inspired restaurant La Boucherie is an American steakhouse with a French twist. In the restaurant’s VIP Starlight Booths, diners enjoy wine-paired chef’s tasting menus along with jaw-dropping views. Another restaurant, Sora, is the place for intimate Japanese omakase. Be sure to order the 1100 Feet—an original blend of liqueurs reflective of L.A.’s melting pot of cultures—at Spire 73, the Western Hemisphere’s highest open-air bar. Pro tip: Book the Presidential Suite, and you’ll be rewarded with another kind of epic view—an infinity bathtub that fills from the ceiling.
250 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA
Founded in 1979, the mission of this institution is clear—it’s committed to preserving, presenting, and interpreting art created after 1940. Its methods, however, are ever changing. Three distinct venues in the city shine a spotlight on forward-thinking artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Start at the Grand Avenue location, arriving right at the 11 a.m. opening for a chance to contemplate Mark Rothko’s emotional color studies in peace. After exploring work by such artists as Robert Rauschenberg, Joan Miró, and Nijideka Akunyili Crosby (who created the mural that wraps around the building), grab lunch from Lemonade café to enjoy in the Sculpture Plaza. One mile away, the same general admission ticket gets you entry to the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, which opened in Little Tokyo in 1983 after a renovation of a former police car warehouse by Frank Gehry; today, it hosts the museum’s more experimental exhibits. Architecture aficionados should also visit the third location, the MOCA Pacific Design Center, about 10 miles away in West Hollywood. (A fourth MOCA location, called Double Negative, requires much more of a detour—it’s a work of land art by Michael Heizer in the middle of the Nevada desert.) Art talks, screenings, and live music alongside food trucks make MOCA Grand and Geffen as much social venues as they are cultural ones. Pro tip: For an in-depth look at the collections, book the completely customizable educator-led tour (request a couple weeks ahead). For a livelier experience, visit on a Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m., when admission is free.
1200 Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90049, USA
Crowning any one location as having the “best view in L.A.” would be controversial, but the Getty Center is certainly a contender. The anticipation that builds upon approach to the arts and cultural center—up a driveway to park, on a tram coming up a hill—doesn’t hurt. At the top of the hill, guests are rewarded with sweeping views of downtown and the Pacific Ocean, verdant gardens, and a series of modern buildings designed by the renowned architect Richard Meier. Spend the afternoon browsing the wide-ranging art collection, which spans the 17th century through the 21st, with headliners like Rembrandt, Renoir, Manet, and Van Gogh (his Irises is the most popular painting here). Then in the early evening, explore the Central Garden designed by artist Robert Irwin—taking in a pool filled with floating azaleas—before enjoying a multi-course dinner at The Restaurant. Time your visit right and you might experience music from a live band or wine tasting, too—part of the museum’s packed schedule of events. Pro tip: The crowds tend to die down around late afternoon. The museum is open until 9 p.m. on Saturday nights.
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608, USA
Call it the magic of Hollywood: Since opening in 1964, this theme park has continued to reinvent itself, creating ever-more ambitious experiences inspired by blockbuster movies. For Harry Potter fans, a visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Hogsmeade is essential, while Peter Jackson’s King Kong 360 3-D, and the immersive Fast & Furious—Supercharged simulator ride will get the adrenaline going. To be truly swept up in the park, sign up for the VIP Experience. You’ll get a special escort to the front of the line for rides, along with breakfast, a private lunch prepared by the studio’s executive chef, valet parking, and backlot access, where you’ll see thousands of set pieces and props. (Production schedules can affect the availability of these tours.) The adjacent Universal CityWalk’s restaurants and massive movie theater make the destination worthy of even more time, especially if you visit around notable holidays, when themes take over in spectacular fashion, from “Grinchmas” to the Lunar New Year. Pro tip: Download the Universal Studios app, which you can set to send alerts when certain rides’ wait times reach five minutes.
17985 Pacific Coast Hwy
J. Paul Getty’s original museum is as much about the transporting setting as it is about the pieces inside. When the billionaire oil tycoon decided to open a museum for his extensive collection of antiquities in 1974, he modeled it after an ancient Roman villa that had been buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The estate’s painted ceilings, Roman columns, and marble floors feel at one with the 44,000-strong collection of Etruscan, Greek, and Roman pieces (don’t miss the bronze statue of Herakles, circa 300 B.C.E.). When you stand amid the 64-acre ground’s bronze statues, frescoes, and reflecting pool, the expansive view of the Pacific Ocean offers one of the few clues that you’re in California. A regular stream of theater performances, readings, and academic talks in the open-air amphitheater keeps things heady day and night. Pro tip: Although it’s free, entrance to the Getty Villa requires an advance, timed-entry ticket, bookable online. Don’t miss the 40-minute tours on Thursdays and Saturdays of the four Roman gardens, which cover a fascinating array of mythology and history.
1850 N Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027, USA
Retro diners from America’s golden years dot Los Angeles. Their original décor elicits nostalgic memories even in those too young to have them. A new wave of retro-inspired diners like 101 Coffee Shop, Fred 62 and Swingers have become staples for a younger generation but the classics like Apple Pan’s hamburgers (1947), Rae’s biscuits and gravy (1958), Brite Spot ‘s sweet potato fries (1949) and Pann’s fluffy biscuits on the route to/from LAX (1958) still reign. For tasty food almost any time of day or night, these spots are sure satiate, just make sure to also order a shake!
317 Broadway
Downtown L.A.'s Grand Central Market has been operating in one capacity or another since 1917. Its past lives have seen it housing fish dealers, butchers, Jewish delis, flower shops, and an egg vendor. Nowadays, the market is a lunch and dinner hot spot nestled among skyscrapers full of white-collar workers. Inside, neon signs showcase the names of more than three dozen vendors. Highlights include the restaurant Eggslut, known for its creative approaches to the classic breakfast sandwich and other lunchtime edibles; Sticky Rice, serving Thai comfort food; and China Cafe, which locals just refer to as “the wonton soup place.”
6333 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90036, USA
The Farmers Market, next to the Grove shopping center, is a historic L.A. landmark dating to 1934. What was once 12 farmers’ fresh produce trucks is now a maze of specialty shops, fruit stands, bakeries, butcheries, permanent eateries, and bars. The atmosphere is always lively, making this the perfect meeting point to grab a quick bite, to kill time before a movie, or to take a break from a brand-name retail spree at the Grove. Make sure to check the Grove’s calendar of events for live music, celebrity book signings, and the lighting of the famous 100-foot Christmas tree.
200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401, USA
The Santa Monica Pier embodies what Southern California is all about: fun in the sun. Popular with tourists and locals alike, this iconic boardwalk adjacent to the Pacific Ocean—filled with all the amusement rides, midway games, fried food, ice cream and cotton candy you can dream up—is a fantastic place to spend a nice day. My favorite attractions are the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium and the world’s first solar-paneled Ferris wheel, which provides breathtaking beach and ocean views as you ride ‘round and ‘round. Be sure to dip your toes in the soft Santa Monica sand, too. Nearby, you’ll find the Third Street Promenade, a bustling entertainment district filled with wonderful eateries and shops.
Venice Fishing Pier, Venice, CA 90292, USA
The boardwalk and bike path from Will Rogers State Beach in the Pacific Palisades to Torrance County Beach in Torrance is a stretch of activity some 20 miles long. Rent a bike, roller or in-line skates, or a Segway and cruise as much of the coastline as you please. The Venice Beach Boardwalk portion is packed with characters, shops, and vendors, and is perfect for picking up a souvenir. Marvel at the strip of contemporary beach houses, including the one designed by Frank Gehry, just north of the Venice Pier, and then stroll down the pier to watch surfers and enjoy the panoramic views.
1000 Vin Scully Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA
Los Angeles isn’t known for its sports pride, but if there’s one team Angelenos will rep without question, it’s the Dodgers. Just take a trip to Dodger Stadium and you’ll feel the energy—then, you’ll understand why it’s an L.A. experience that’s not to be missed. Plus, Dodger Stadium isn’t most ballparks. It has its own zip code, seats more people than any other baseball stadium, and is one of the most Instagrammed places on the planet, for starters. There’s also a hidden Japanese garden tucked behind Parking Lot 6, the stadium’s signature grilled Dodger Dogs, and, of course, hundreds of die-hard fans that span the broad spectrum of L.A. residents.
7290 Beverly Boulevard
LA’s latest guilty pleasure - the macaron ice-cream sandwiches from MILK. For the gluten-free, this a dream come true. For everyone else, this is the best ice cream sandwich option around. Forget messy cookies, the macaron is a lite, subtle way to indulge in this sweet treat. If you have to get your cookie on, MILK’s signature Ooey-Gooey Double Chocolate Chip Cookie has been gathering a following for years. No matter your choice, from shake to cake, everything at this modern mom-and-pop ice cream parlor and bakeshop is freshly made by hand, on site.
5801 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036, USA
Not only does this museum give you a peek at local prehistoric flora and fauna long before Hollywood CGI could create them, its deliciously corny and retro exhibits are reason enough to visit. Beginning at the still-oozing and sulphur-stinky tar pits on the grounds outside the building—with fake mastodons caught in the muck and on the solid ground beside it—the mood is old-school museum, but the science is real. Fossil excavation is ongoing and one of the galleries inside has an illuminated wall display of the skulls of hundreds of dire wolves pulled from the tar. (The ever-hungry wolves would be unable to resist the delicious sight of helpless animals stuck in the tar, and would venture in for the kill, only to get trapped themselves). The museum has not abandoned some of its old-fashioned showmanship, including a couple of animatronic displays, one of of saber-toothed tiger mechanically attacking a giant sloth. In a city full of modern sophistication and invention, the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum are able to educate about the city’s distant and not-so-distant past.
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